Cannabis has many amazing benefits. However, too much of a good thing can have some drawbacks.
And that’s true of cannabis – consume too much too often, and your tolerance will build until the euphoric effects you once experienced after just a few puffs will be difficult to achieve no matter how much you consume.
This can lead people to upping the ante – whether it be by smoking way more than they would like to or using stronger products like concentrates or edibles.
This is why tolerance breaks (or T-breaks) should be considered as a regular practice. Not only will they reset your sensitivity to THC, but they can also help you take stock of your relationship with cannabis and keep your usage under control.
What is a tolerance break?
A tolerance break can be a very useful tool for anyone who consumes THC. But what exactly is it and what does it entail?
Well, it’s pretty simple. A T-break is when you abstain from consuming cannabis for a period of time so that when you restart, your tolerance has lowered and the weed has a stronger effect on you.
This works by allowing your cannabinoid receptors time to re-sensitise themselves to THC. This most notably affects the CB1 receptor, which is the receptor that THC directly activates to cause most of the effects associated with getting stoned (euphoria, red eyes, munchies etc).
After your period of abstinence, your previously high tolerance to THC will have reduced thanks to the CB1 receptor not experiencing activation from THC. This will make your high more profound the next time you smoke.
Common side effects during a T-break
If you are a regular smoker and are considering taking a tolerance break, you should be aware that you may experience some uncomfortable effects from not smoking.
The most common are listed below.
- Trouble getting to sleep
- Night sweats
- Concentration problems
You might experience them all, or you might experience none. A lot depends on how often and how much you consume, as well as general lifestyle variables and other coping strategies you use.
These issues generally aren’t too severe and they will usually pass in a fews days for most people. More heavy users may experience side-effects for a week or longer.
How does your tolerance build?
As previously mentioned, THC is the compound in cannabis that is responsible for its famed intoxicating effects. As well as euphoria, THC induces short-term memory problems, increased appetite (AKA the ‘munchies’) and red eyes.
THC accomplishes this by interacting with receptors throughout the body that make up the endocannabinoid system (ECS). As well as other non-cannabinoid receptors, THC has a strong binding affinity with the CB1 receptor.
However, if you consume THC often, your body will downregulate (reduce) CB1 receptors, as this study from 2016 shows. This means that regular consumers need more THC than those who don’t smoke in order to get the same effects. In other words, they have a higher tolerance.
Why would you need a T-break?
There are many good reasons to take a weed tolerance break. The most obvious reason is to simply lower your tolerance as you just don’t get as high as you used to. High tolerance is a feature many long-term smokers will experience so they may wish to take a T-break every now and then.
Additionally, if your tolerance is high, you may find yourself consuming a lot more weed than you would like to. And this can be very expensive. Switching to a dry herb vape may help you be more economical with your stash but a T-break is still a useful way to reduce the amount you consume and, therefore, save some money.
Compulsive cannabis use, also known as cannabis dependence or cannabis addiction, could also represent a good reason to take a break. For more information on establishing a healthy relationship to cannabis, check out my book Overcoming Cannabis Dependence.
How long should a T-break last?
How long your tolerance-break should last depends on a number of factors, such as your goals, how much you consume, your height and weight. The minimum amount of time that is needed in order to reset tolerance to THC seems to be about two days, according to most reports. Heavy consumers may need a bit longer, however.
The study mentioned earlier backs this up, finding that there was no difference between the prevalence of CB1 receptors between the smokers and non-smokers after just two days of abstinence from cannabis.
If you struggle with compulsive behaviours or just wish to make sure your tolerance is completely reset, you may choose to do a longer T-break. Two weeks to a month is a popular duration for not only resetting tolerance levels back to pre-smoking levels, but also re-establishing healthy levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
If you are facing a drug test, you will probably want to hold out for at least a month so that all the THC being stored in your body’s fat cells has purged.
Tips for a successful T-break
So now that you know exactly what a weed tolerance break is, how it works, and why you might want to take one, here are some expert tips that will help you to successfully manage your break.
1. Set a goal
If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you’re there. Therefore, the first step to a successful weed tolerance break is to set yourself a realistic goal. For example, 48 hours with no weed, 3 days with no weed, etc. Without a clear goal, you’re set to fail.
If you have taken a break from weed before, then you probably know how you handle it and what you’ll be up against. If you haven’t, be prepared for possible sleepless nights, irritability, loss of appetite, cravings, and more.
You can prepare for these issues by choosing to T-break when you have a few days off work or nothing important/stressful going on at the same time. Get a few good books in or line up a new series to binge watch.
3. Get rid of all your weed
Out of sight, out of mind. The last thing you need when trying to abstain from weed is a big, shiny bag of frosty nugs sitting in your room somewhere. To make sure you don’t give in and light up on the first night, remove all cannabis from your house. Give it to a friend, sell it or flush it down the toilet.
Whatever you do with it, knowing that it’s not in easy reach when the cravings kick in will help you to overcome them and to continue your T-break.
4. Put your glass and other devices and accessories away
The same goes for any glass, rigs, vapes, or even papers and grinders – put it away and out of sight. Put it in storage for the duration or give to a friend to hold on to. This will help you to avoid thinking about using it.
5. Tell your friends
If you usually smoke with your friends, tell them before you start your T-break that that is what you will be doing and that you need the support. Explain that you won’t be smoking/vaping/dabbing with them for a short amount of time and ask them not to tempt you off the wagon.
Good friends will understand and do their best to help. You may even persuade one or two to join you by taking a T-break, which will give you even more incentive to complete it.
6. Healthy habits
One way to make the transition from regular cannabis consumption to abstinence easier is by eating healthy, exercising and meditating. These practices will help you to feel good and will also help reduce any negative symptoms you may experience.
Water, fruit and vegetables are recommended, while avoiding any processed and high-sugar foods is also important.
7. Find a new hobby
Consuming weed is a time-consuming hobby. So, when you give it up for a period of time, you will want to find some other activity to fill up all the free time you will have. Joining a team is especially effective. You could also read, learn to cook, or start a project of some sort.
8. Keep busy
Keeping busy in general will be a major help to your T-break. Meet up with non-smoking friends, go out for the day, or visit some relatives. Keeping busy will help keep the cravings at bay and tire you out enough to help you sleep at night.
9. Use CBD
Using a form of cannabis to help you not use cannabis may sound like a contradiction, but CBD is not like regular cannabis. First of all, it won’t get you high as it does not bind to the CB1 receptor like THC does. Second, it is very effective at reducing anxiety and promoting rest and sleep.
Third, you can even get high-CBD, low-THC weed that you could smoke or vape just like regular weed and not get high. This could be especially useful for heavy weed smokers and those of you who experience severe cravings.
What if you use cannabis medicinally and can’t take a break?
Many people use cannabis medicinally and are unable to stop using it in order to lower their tolerance. In these cases, reducing your dose and avoiding binge sessions may help to up-regulate CB1 receptors and lower your tolerance.
For example, try smoking half of what you would usually smoke in a bowl and then wait two hours before having the same dose again. While this may not be enough to be effective to start with, after some days your tolerance should reduce and you should find yourself higher on less weed for longer.
If you usually smoke, using a dry herb vape can also help you to reduce the amount you consume. CBD can also help.
If you find yourself smoking more and more weed and still not getting as high as you want to, it may be time for a tolerance break. 2-30 days is a good range to aim for. Just be prepared, it might not be as easy as you think. Lots of people report negative symptoms that make T-breaks difficult to complete.
But don’t let that dissuade you. With the above helpful tips you will be well on track to successfully completing a weed tolerance break and, when you do return to the herb, you will be in for a high that you haven’t felt since when you first started smoking weed. And it will be good. Enjoy it. You deserve it.